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Exclusive: Squatters move into The Cross Keys pub
SQUATTERS have moved into one of Chelsea's oldest pubs after the owners failed in their attempt to have it turned into a residential property.
The 17 squatters moved into the Cross Keys pub on Lawrence Street, just over a week ago as the once popular watering hole was boarded up by the owner Andrew Bourne, who said it was no longer turning a profit.
He had failed to secure planning permission to change the use of the property in order to turn it into a £10million property, complete with basement swimming pool.
And as the building remains commercial, the squatters are safe from a new law which would give the police the power to arrest them for squatting in a residential property.
A spokesman for the Chelsea Society, which has been campaigning to save some of the area's historic pubs, said: "There really is delicious irony in this as Andrew Bourne failed to turn it into a residence, but now against his will it has indeed turned into one for squatters.
"The squatters really couldn't be nicer and say they won't allow anyone in who is a nuisance. They are very courteous and polite and have offered us a Sunday roast and say they want to turn the space into an art gallery."
Famous faces from Bob Marley to The Rolling Stones frequented the 300-year-old Cross Keys, but now it is home to the group who claim they are looking after the building and opening it again to the community for events, an art gallery, community library and for Sunday lunches.
Mariana Costa, 28, a Portuguese theatre student said: "This is a commercial property which is boarded up and empty so we can squat here. We have welcomed many members of the community in and everyone seems quite happy about us being here.
"I work and I'm a student. I have rented before in London recently but found that in order to survive I have to work many hours a week in order to pay the rent and my grades began to slip as I was working when I should have been studying."
Most of the squatters work or study and are all aged between 17 and 36. They had been living as part of a 50-strong group who were squatting an office block in Holborn but wanted to moved out together due to there being too many parties.
Charlie Seneviratne said: "We are all like minded and did not want to live somewhere where there were parties and noise all the time so we began looking for another commercial property and found this place. It's nice here and we want to become a part of the community.
"If anyone is concerned about us being here they are very welcome to call in. We definitely won't be having any parties and we want to open an art gallery here and a library."
Andrew Bourne was not available for comment.
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